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MTN Adds AI to Mobile Money Services

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MTN is bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into its Mobile Money (MoMo) service and has launched what it is calling Africaís first Mobile Money chatbot.

The Johannesburg-headquartered group says the AI chatbot went live in the Ivory Coast in May and will be rolled out across MTNís MoMo footprint over the next few months.

"Harnessing modern technologies like artificial intelligence can improve in scale, how MTN interacts with customers, enabling them to reach us anytime and anywhere, through a variety of channels including social networks and messaging applications. We can also harness the power of artificial intelligence to provide our customers with the right answers to their questions at the right time," stated MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter in a prepared statement about the development.

The chatbot is an AI guide that assists users to navigate MTN's MoMo services and provide other useful information.

Shuter says MTN plans to bring its mobile money solutions to more than 60 million customers across Africa during the next few years.

At the end of March 2019, MTN had 28.3 million active Mobile Money customers, adding 1.2 million during the first three months of this year.

"We are committed to improving financial inclusion with a range of solutions aimed at addressing the needs of various market segments. While MTN has made great strides in these areas, we will continue working to deliver our vision for MTN to become one of the largest Fintech players across our footprint," Shuter noted.

MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter wants MTN Mobile Money to reach more than 60 million customers across Africa during the next few years and is turning to cutting-edge technology to help reach that goal.
MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter wants MTN Mobile Money to reach more than 60 million customers across Africa during the next few years and is turning to cutting-edge technology to help reach that goal.

MTN Mobile Money is active in 14 markets, and at the group's full year results presentation in Johannesburg in March, Shuter said the group had plans to expand. MTN wants to re-launch MoMo in South Africa and extend the service into Nigeria, Afghanistan and Sudan this year. (See MTN Raises Targets After a Tough Year.)

Last year at AfricaCom in Cape Town Shuter announced he wanted to bring MoMo back to South Africa, where it previously failed and was decommissioned in September 2016.

The new AI assistant will help customers to engage with MTN's MoMo services, including payments, on various social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and via SMS. The group also plans to include the service, over time, in its own newly released advanced instant messaging service called Ayoba.

Also in March, Shuter said MTN had developed an instant messaging platform, with aspirations to be the "WeChat of Africa," and that payments would be integrated into the messaging platform. (See MTN Uses AI to Offer Top-Up App via WhatsApp.)

MTNís fintech business -- which includes Mobile Money, insurance, airtime lending and e-commerce -- performed well last year. The MTN Group saw fintech revenue grow by 46.8% year-on-year, to R7.8 billion (US$527.5 million), for the year ended 31 December 2018.

At the end of March, MTN had a total of 237 million mobile customers across 21 operations in Africa and the Middle East. (See Major Markets Help MTN Deliver a Strong Q1.)

ó Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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